CDOT and partner agencies continue to assess I-70 Glenwood Canyon safety protocol

News Release

August 5, 2022 - Statewide - Close review finds safety protocol to be best approach so far, but conditions will continue to be evaluated

Statewide - The Colorado Department of Transportation and partner agencies continue to assess the safety protocol in place for Interstate 70, rest areas and the recreation path in Glenwood Canyon. The goal is to continue to review how effective the protocol has been in protecting the traveling public, and whether the protocol needs to be adjusted while maintaining safety in the canyon.

During an assessment in early July, CDOT met with the National Weather Service and U.S. Geological Survey. Team members reviewed closure data, weather forecasts, safety incidents in the canyon and other factors.

When reviewing these factors in mid July, CDOT and partner agencies determined the current protocol is the most effective at keeping the traveling public safe. New data will continue to be added to the next calculations. The safety protocol may be adjusted if those changes allow crews to continue keeping Glenwood Canyon safe for the traveling public.

“We understand the safety closures of I-70, the rest areas and recreation path are challenging for motorists and local communities,” said Region 3 Transportation Director Jason Smith. “Unfortunately they are necessary to protect the traveling public. We have been fortunate to have little to no flooding in the canyon during the 2022 monsoon season. However, the season is not over, and the canyon is still at a high risk for mudslides and debris flows. It is essential that CDOT continue to protect the traveling public from these dangers.”

In Glenwood Canyon, the I-70 roadway, rest areas and recreation path are at risk of being damaged by a mudslide or flooding from rain on the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar. The 2020 fire burned next to and above the roadway, rest areas and recreation path. Heavy rain in 2021 caused extensive debris flows and damage more than once.

I-70 Glenwood Canyon Safety Protocol
If a Flash Flood Watch is issued for the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar in Glenwood Canyon, CDOT will have personnel and equipment on standby in preparation for a closure. Employees are stationed at closure points at exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) and exit 133 (Dotsero). Crews will also be on standby at exit 87 (West Rifle). During a Flash Flood Watch, crews will evacuate and close rest areas in Glenwood Canyon and the recreation path. Evacuating travelers from the rest areas and recreation path requires significant time, so closing those locations ahead of time is necessary to allow a swift and safe evacuation of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon if a closure is needed.

If there is a Flash Flood Warning issued for the Grizzly Creek burn scar, CDOT will close I-70 in Glenwood Canyon from Exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) to Exit 133 (Dotsero). A closure point will also be in place at exit 87 (West Rifle) to detour eastbound traffic onto northbound Colorado Highway 13. All traffic in Glenwood Canyon will immediately be evacuated from I-70 in Glenwood Canyon. The rest areas and path will be closed and evacuated. CDOT’s COtrip website and smartphone app will display closure information in the alerts and on the map. Motorists will continue to have access to Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley. Having an additional closure point west of Glenwood Springs allows CDOT, CSP and partner agencies to safely manage a closure, allowing emergency vehicles to pass through closure points and without requiring motorists to wait on I-70 for an extended period of time.

The National Weather Service issues Flash Flood Watch and Flash Flood Warning alerts for the burn scar and Glenwood Canyon area. Motorists are encouraged to monitor weather forecasts if they are traveling through the area, and can sign up for the alerts through the NWS or preferred weather monitoring app.

Safety closures may be required due to vehicle crashes. The safety closure protocol described above will also be used for a closure due to a crash.

Rest Areas & Recreation Path
The website and smartphone app now have an option to see Glenwood Canyon rest area and recreation path closures. First, go to the map. Next, select the “Rest Areas & Welcome Centers” layer. If the Grizzly Creek Rest area and the Bair Ranch Rest Area display as closed, click on either rest area to see written information. If the recreation path is closed, the closure will be included in the written information. Here is an example of what that looks like.

COtrip screen page

Often the banner, or top alerts, will include closures for the Glenwood Canyon rest areas and recreation path. Rest area and trail users can also check the status of those locations by calling CDOT’s Region 3 customer service information line at 970-243-2368, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

CDOT must make sure the traveling public is as safe as possible in Glenwood Canyon. This means CDOT and partner agencies must be able to safely evacuate the canyon as quickly as possible if an I-70 safety closure is necessary. If the recreation path or rest areas are open, crews cannot evacuate the canyon quickly. This means safety closures of the rest areas and recreation path in Glenwood Canyon are necessary. CDOT will close the rest areas and path if any of the following take place:

  • If there is a low, medium or high chance of a Flash Flood Watch to be issued during the next 24 hours for the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar
  • If a Flash Flood Watch or Flash Flood Warning alert has been issued
  • If a threshold amount of rain has fallen on the Grizzly Creek burn scar

The rest areas and path will continue to be closed until the forecast improves. In some cases, this will mean they are closed overnight or for more than one day at a time. Unfortunately this is necessary to ensure the safety of trail users and the traveling public. CDOT recommends trail users have a back-up plan in case the recreation path is closed.

The Hanging Lake Rest Area (exit 125) is only open to motorists with hiking reservations for the Hanging Lake trail. No other motorists can park at Hanging Lake Rest Area. More information about Hanging Lake trail reservations is available at, 970-384-6309 and [email protected]. CDOT does not handle hiking reservations or have real-time information about reservations or parking.

River Access

Commercial river guide services, including rafting companies, continue to have access to the Grizzly Creek and Shoshone Power Plant exits during rest area and recreation path closures, unless a Flash Flood Warning is issued and I-70 is closed. CDOT and partner agencies have been coordinating closely with river outfitters since last year. Commercial river trips are limited in number and closely tracked, and companies can be notified immediately if an evacuation is necessary. Companies with access during rest area and recreation path closures have committed to evacuating their customers if there is a Flash Flood Warning, or mudslides, and have liability insurance in place.

For the remainder of the monsoon season, the public should be prepared for continued Flash Flood Watches and the associated sustained closures of the rest areas in Glenwood Canyon and the recreation path. Private boaters should check to monitor rest area closures and have a back-up river recreation location in mind before heading out for the day.